Manchester City 3 Newcastle Utd 1: City hit dizzy heights but Owen ready to lift club and country

Click to follow

As a coach, Sven Goran Eriksson is clearly a man of outstanding ability; his record before and including his period in charge of the England team is proof of that. Now at Manchester City he has revealed that he knows how to be a crowd-pleaser, too.

This was not a flawless performance from his team. A defence that had conceded three goals at Fulham looked wobbly enough often enough for the Eastlands crowd to remain slightly uneasy until Elano's brilliant free-kick three minutes from time put the issue beyond doubt. Going forward City were breath-takingly good, Elano and Martin Petrov the leading players in a work of artistry and innovation that had an audience who were bored rigid last season jumping to their feet in anticipation of the next moment of magic. In many ways, it was football in the classic City tradition.

The result gave this team the club's best start to a top-flight season in 30 years and left Eriksson as delighted as he might have been with the news of Michael Owen's improving fitness had he still been in charge of the national side.

Owen, according to Sam Allardyce, the Newcastle manager, has had successful keyhole surgery to strengthen his stomach walls and might even be ready to face Everton for his club a week today, though that depends also on how his adductor muscle tear heals.

"It is possible he could be back next weekend," Allardyce said. "There is the other injury to consider. It could be very, very good news for him and for us, as it will be when we get back Claudio Cacapa, Stephen Carr, Joey Barton and Damien Duff. We need them all back."

The City crowd were particularly keen that Barton should be aware of what he had left behind, although he might point out that the side he was watching yesterday bore little resemblance to the sorry bunch over which Stuart Pearce presided.

From the 12th minute, when a swift movement through the middle involving Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson and Emile Mpenza ended with Shay Given at full stretch to save from Elano's shot, there was an expectation among the spectators that did not dissipate even when, after 29 minutes, Obefami Martins, with exquisite control and a clever finish, beat Micah Richards to Gérémi's long ball to put Newcastle ahead.

Soon Petrov was testing Given again before Elano and Ireland combined to set up the Bulgarian for a 38th-minute equaliser, the Brazilian's lofted pass along the right flank releasing Ireland, whose pass to Petrov at the far post was so precisely weighted that not one among three Newcastle defenders could cut it out.

The second goal came two minutes after the interval, when Petrov intercepted a weak clearing header by Habib Beye and outran Steven Taylor to the byline on the left before crossing to the far post, where Mpenza headed home.

The goal allowed City to drop back, although they might have conceded when Alan Smith's pass released Martins for a shot that crashed into the side netting and when Joe Hart, picked ahead of Kasper Schmeichel in goal, had to arch his back to keep out a dipping Gérémi free-kick.

The killer blow came after Petrov had been brought down by Nicky Butt, 30 yards out. Elano is unlikely to come up with a better strike, the ball arrowing into the top left-hand corner so accurately that no goalkeeper could have kept it out.

"When Elano came to us he was not in as good condition physically as he could be but he is getting fitter and stronger and he is a player who excites you whenever he has the ball," Eriksson said. "I think the whole team will get better the more we play and train together."